DAVAO City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has yet to make up his mind on the people's call for him to run for president, but said if it is his destiny to become the country's leader, he would like to see a radical overhaul of government, including the privatization of the graft-ridden Bureau of Customs (BOC).
"I don't covet the presidency, but if by God's will I would be president, I would not sit there for six uneventful years and continue the system as it is today," Duterte said on Thursday, repeating earlier pronouncements made in previous speaking engagements.
He likened the government to a computer infected with a malevolent virus and there is an urgent need to reformat it.
"We really have to overhaul the system," he said.
In doing so, Duterte said that BOC, which recently made the headlines following the controversial decision of its head, Alberto Lina, to open balikbayan boxes for duties and tariff examination, should be privatized to put an end to well-entrenched syndicate composed of corrupt officials and employees.
"The Bureau of Customs should be privatized. That is the only way we could dismantle and end the systemic corruption in that agency," Duterte said.
"After Customs, the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) and GSIS (Government Service Insurance System) should go private and their functions could be taken over by reputable firms which operate much like the SGS," Duterte said.
He was referring to the Societe Generale de Surveillance, a Geneva, Switzerland based company which, alongside other firms like Bureau Veritas, Intertek, TÜV, Germanischer Lloyd (DNV GL), AS International and Cotecna, is involved in the inspection and verification of the quantity, weight and quality of traded goods.
The city mayor, who earlier castigated the BOC for prying into the boxes of presents and goodies sent by Filipino foreign workers to their families back home, said that BOC and BIR have become "bloated government agencies which could no longer totally supervise and control the actions of its officials and employees."
Privatizing the BOC will eliminate political interference in its operations and free it from the image of being a "fund-raising" agency for the political party in power during election seasons, he said.
"Look at the BIR. Even if Kim (Henares, the BIR Commissioner) is an outstanding and honest government official, the system of tax collection opens windows of opportunities for corruption," Duterte said.
"Look at GSIS. Government workers put their money there for their future but when they apply for a loan to build their homes and for other needs, they literally have to beg and wait for the release of their own money,' he said.
"If I were president, those earning P25,000 and below should be exempt from income taxes and the computation of payable taxes should be based on a computerized formula. Let's put an end to the system where the tax collectors haggle with the tax payers on the amount due government. That is where corruption comes in," Duterte said.
Privatizing the BOC, BIR and GSIS will provide greater transparency, accountability and efficiency, Duterte said.
"Targets and standards should be set for firms involved in the operations of Customs, tax collection and government insurance. If they don't meet the target, they won't make money," he said.